Applying Conventional Nitrogen Fertilizer

Recently, a potential customer asked me a question that I’ve been asked many times before, but, this time, I thought I’d use it as an educational opportunity for everyone reading this blog. His question was simple:

What is the actual N per acre?

Of course, what he meant, specifically, was, “If I apply your AGGRAND 4-3-3 product at the recommended rate, how much actual nitrogen are plants going to get? Are they going to get enough for good growth? After all, your product is only 4% nitrogen. I’m used to applying fertilizers that are easily 30 or 40% nitrogen. Often I apply straight nitrogen. How does your product compare?”

The Following Was My Answer

Believe it or not, the actual N applied per acre using our 4-3-3 is EXTREMELY low – so low that many farmers who’ve been using conventional fertilizer for years, if they actually take the time to consider this issue and do some calculations, get a bit scared by the numbers.

If you were applying my recommended 1 gallon 4-3-3 per acre to a hay field, that’s about 12 pounds of actual fertilizer. Being a 4-3-3 analysis, that means that only 4% of that 12 pounds is nitrogen. Thus, .04 x 12 = .48 pounds of N per acre. Just a half pound.

As you can see, for someone who might be used to putting down 50 – 100 pounds of N per acre, seeing that half pound number could be a deal breaker without sufficient knowledge of why the product still works and works very well.

In short, there are a few reasons it is possible to apply SOOOO much less nitrogen and still get excellent results.

It’s About “How”, not “How Much”

First and foremost, much of the water soluble conventional nitrogen fertilizer that is applied leaches away or evaporates before the plant ever gets a chance to use it. And, quite frankly, this is true of the isolated phosphates and potash being applied as well. Whether they are “slow release” encapsulated or not, once the capsule has deteriorated, the water soluble fertilizer is once again exposed and dissolved readily with the water from any irrigation or rainfall and will leach away with it.

In addition, significant irrigation or rainfall results in soil organisms taking the oxygen they need from nitrates instead of from the air, thus leaving the nitrogen in a gaseous form which escapes into the air. This is known as denitrification and is a common source of additional nitrogen loss.

Water – the Necessary Evil

Water is necessary for the plant to make use of this macro-nutrient because it has been applied in a non-chelated conventional form. The only way for the plant to use it is in solution with water. In a natural system, the plant would draw the chelated form of this nutrient directly from soil humus colloids, independent of water. With conventional fertilization, the water is necessary. But, once you get it, and the nitrogen (or other nutrient) has dissolved into solution with the ground water, the nitrogen leaches away as quickly as the water does, leaving little of what you’ve applied left for the plant.

Worse yet, what IS there is still not chelated. Thus, it will take much more energy from the plant to “process” it for growth. Moreover, the plant must steal other micronutrients and minerals from the soil in order to process the nitrogen for growth. Since these nutrients are not found within the fertilizer, they must be stripped from the soil.

Force Feeding by “IV Infusion”

Lastly, the plant received this nitrogen infusion when it drew in water through the roots, much like an IV infusion that was not requested. The plant wasn’t looking for nutrient. The plant wanted water for hydration. In a natural environment, water is locked up in humus colloids separate from chelated nutrients. The water is “pure”. So, when the plant uses its root system to draw water, that is what it gets. When it needs nutrient, it draws that from the humus colloid as well, but, separate from water. The plant gets what it needs when it needs it. It is not force-fed through water soluble nutrition.

Continuous, Unquenchable Thirst

With conventional fertilizer applications, every time a plant needs hydration, it gets salt based nutrient water instead. This creates two initial problems. One, the plant does not get hydration because salt water does not hydrate (just try drinking a bit from the ocean sometime). Thus, the plant needs more water. But, no matter what it does, every time it tries to draw water, it gets more salt based nutrient as well. So, the plant is never properly “hydrated” even though it can become completely saturated with water – often to the point of causing fungus and disease problems (the secondary results that are often not connected to their initial cause).

The second problem is that the plant must now do something with the nutrient that has just been drawn in with the water. It must process it. So, it must use up carbohydrate reserves and strip nutrients from the soil to process it. Also, because the nutrient was not in a chelated form, the plant expends considerably more energy to process the nutrient than it should – energy that would normally be left over to perform other biologic functions within the plant that are not necessarily related to “top growth”.

Nutritional Theft Eventually Results in Poverty

So, as long as there is some natural nutrient left within the soil, nitrogen WILL stimulate top growth – sometimes ALOT of top growth – but at what expense and to what purpose? If you continue to force the plant to steal nutrition from the soil, eventually, the only logical result is that your soil will become nutrient poor. Finally, as a result, not only will your soil be poor – you will be too – because you won’t be able to grow anything. In the end, poverty can be the only rationally expected result of such a course of action.

It is actually possible to get much better and more consistent plant growth AND health, by using a more balanced, natural approach that provides macro and micronutrients as well as minerals and plant hormones in a chelated form that the plant can readily use with very little “processing”. In this way, and because MUCH less leaching will occur, a SIGNIFICANTLY lower level of fertilization is necessary to achieve the same or better result.